PEN America Blasts Saudi Arabia for Charging Women’s Rights Activist in Terrorism Court
Move signals a desperate, retaliatory attempt to lash out at a woman who has spoken up for women's rights in the kingdom
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(New York, NY) — In response to news that writer, activist, and 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write awardee Loujain Al-Hathloul’s trial has been transferred to a specialized anti-terrorism court and that she has been accused of contacting “states unfriendly to the kingdom and with providing classified information,” in addition to existing charges and despite having been detained since May 2018, PEN America released the following statement:
“These recent developments in the case against Loujain Al-Hathloul only make more evident how bogus and blatantly retaliatory the Saudi authorities’ case against her is,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America’s director of free expression programs at risk. “Al-Hathloul remains in prison and on trial for advocating a policy change granting women the right to drive, now a law in Saudi Arabia for more than two years. It is both offensive and absurd that an advocate for women’s rights would now be tried in a terrorism court and accused of ‘providing classified information,’ among other charges, after nearly three years in detention—some of which she has spent incommunicado and subject to grave abuse. Al-Hathloul is clearly being targeted at the highest level for her expression and advocacy for reforms that the Saudi leadership now seeks to take credit for, even as they dismiss the brave role that Al-Hathloul and other Saudi activists have played in driving political change. We continue to call for her sham trial to end, for these ridiculous charges to be dropped, and for the immediate release of Al-Hathloul and other jailed women’s rights activists.”
Al-Hathloul received the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write award alongside fellow writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Eman Al-Nafjan; Abdulaziz also remains in prison, and Al-Nafjan continues to face charges. PEN America recently hosted a G20 ‘Counter-Summit,’ highlighting the Saudi regime’s egregious human rights record, pushing back against the kingdom’s attempts to obfuscate its rights violations, and honoring the voices of those the regime has attempted to silence.